Rural Communities and the Post-2015 Agenda

Yaa Baah BL2

March 26, 2015

This week, the Guardian posted a fantastic article written by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, urging those responsible for guiding the negotiations of the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), not to underestimate the importance of continual investment in rural development.

The idea behind rural development is nothing new, at both the international and domestic level the goal is the same; to improve the quality of life and fiscal security of those living in fairly isolated and sparsely occupied areas. Traditionally, the concept of rural development has focused mainly on agriculture, but there has been a shift to include a wider perspective in ways of targeting solutions to poverty and hunger through driving local development, promoting education, improving physical and social infrastructure, and sustainable use and management of national resources.[1]

Those living in rural and peri-urban communities, are thought about when targets are developed, specifically thinking about poverty and hunger, but are never focused on as active solutions to the problem; which is interesting to think about as “more than three-quarters of the global poor are in rural areas.”[2] The article argues that investing in small family farmers, those breeding livestock, fisherfolk, rural workers, indigenous peoples, and entrepreneurs are keys to promoting growth and pushing forward economic development in depressed regions.

The IDP Foundation, Inc. would agree whole heartedly with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, on a myriad of things within this article, particularly on the topic of the strong entrepreneurial spirit already existing in the rural sector. This spirit is something we regularly see in our IDP Rising Schools Program (IDPRS) operating in Ghana, as 41% of our school proprietors giving educational access to children are doing so in remote areas; with another 45% operating in the peri-urban space.  These individuals are not only helping achieve the Education for All target put forth in the Millennium Development Goals and backed by UNESCO, but they are also giving women the same access to opportunities as their male counterparts, which according to research has been shown to significantly reduce the number of poor and hungry people in a community.[3]

The article also talks about partnerships, both public and private, to place equal focus on both the urban and rural areas when it comes to policy, and we would argue these policies should not only focus on the rural agricultural development but also social and educational to build a more inclusive and just civil sector and society; which would include low cost private schools and their owners since they too benefit the public good. Without education, the 17 overly ambitious SDGs and their 169 targets being set for the post-2015 agenda will not be possible, as sustainability can only come from localized development and targeted education.

We too ask that the rural people not be forgotten in this time of goal setting, and challenge those responsible for negotiations with the General Assembly to create an inclusive as well as equitable education agenda.

[1] Ward, Neil; Brown, David L. (1 December 2009). “Placing the Rural in Regional Development”. Regional Studies 43 (10): 1237–1244.



Cost of Post-2015 SDGs Proves Partnerships with Local School Owners can be Beneficial

Hilltop Queen Esther School

March 12, 2015

This week, UNESCO’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report (GMR) released a new paper “Pricing the right to education: The cost of reaching new targets by 2030” to consider the immense costs associated with the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals on participating States. The analysis takes into account all low and lower middle income countries, which face the greatest challenges in education provision and are the most likely to need external assistance, as well as the rise in the number of children entering schools. [1]

The key findings show that there is a US$22 billion annual external financing gap that must be filled if low and lower middle income countries are to reach “quality, universal pre-primary, primary, and lower secondary education.”[2] Additionally, the GMR also shows that there is going to also be a significant increase in the cost per student, government spending on education, and the need for aid to quadruple in some cases to help meet the 15 year targets.

Looking at the financial challenges that lie ahead, it is clear that multi-lateral partnerships with governments across the globe will be a top priority if we are to reach the educational development goals of the post-2015 agenda for all children. Support will need to be both sustainable and incredibly creative, and in-house changes will need to be cost effective and educationally relevant.

The IDP Foundation, Inc. fully believes portions of the post-2015 agenda can be met, regardless of financing, if those involved would only look towards the low-cost private school (LCPS) sector as an added resource to the solution.  With costs rising to finance the goals, the governments should welcome the LCPS sector, as they are already currently educating students at no cost to the government. Partnerships with these schools, as well as access to resources, could net a huge return in the goal of universal pre-primary, primary, and lower secondary education are to be met by 2030.

Resources such as allowing private school teachers to attend public in service trainings, providing access to affordable and reliable transportation to allow children to get to and from school, as well as connecting with proprietors regarding educational goals for the country are all ways to ensure children receive and have access to quality education, at a minimal cost to the government.

A great example of a partnership currently happening in Ghana is with an IDP Rising Schools Program (IDPRSP) graduate, Benjamin Kofu Boateng and the Peaceland Preparatory School. Benjamin got involved with IDPRS soon after it began in 2010 by joining the second group of schools offered access to microfinance capital after completing training to purchase a larger plot of land that could comfortably support his expanding low-cost private school. Although he was very lucky to have secured a sizable property, it was a great deal further from its original location, making it difficult for his students to maintain regular attendance. Utilizing his proprietor training foundation, Benjamin decided to take out another small loan from SinapiAba Trust in order to purchase a small school bus to aide in transportation. As the school grew, it was obvious that another bus was needed, but instead of taking out a loan Benjamin wanted to find a local partner to help keep costs low and maintain a level of safety for the students.

Understanding costs and income as well as perseverance and persistence, all of which are taught as part of the proprietor training offered by the IDP Rising Schools Program, we were pleased to hear that Benjamin took the initiative to effectively pursue and successfully establish a partnership with the Ghana Metro Mass Transit System to assist Peaceland Preparatory with their bussing of students.  Government partnerships and registration are a core value of our program, and every morning students in upper primary are transported to the new campus and back to their homes via efficient, safe, and reliable transportation for a small fee that is manageable by the school.

The post-2015 agenda has ambitious targets, which come at a steep financial burden to those countries that are classified as low and lower middle income. Incorporating the low-cost private school sector into the policy provisions in helping to reach these education goals through affordable partnerships, and ensuring all students are receiving the best form of quality education, regardless if it is public or private, is a great start.

[1] ambitious-new-vision



IDP Foundation President Mentors at Village Capital 2015 Ed Tech Cohort


Photo by Village Capital

February 27, 2015

Back in January, Village Capital and Citi Community Development announced that they would be partnering together to create a program to promote entrepreneurship and improve education in local communities.

Comprised of three sessions, two in Washington, DC and one in Chicago, the Village Capital Ed Tech: US 2015 selected a group of 11 early stage ventures to participate in their three-month outcome based  accelerator program.  The program would provide the entrepreneurs   with critical business development training, mentorship from local business leaders and investors and face-to-face interaction with potential customers. At the end of the program, the entrepreneurs rank each other according to six criteria, and the two highest peer-ranked ventures each receive $50,000 in pre-committed capital.

The Chicago session commenced this week, working in the Impact Engine Office at the 1871 building, and IDP Foundation, Inc. President, Irene Pritzker, was honored to be involved. Selected by Village Capital to be a mentor, Irene used her experience as a foundation President and expertise in sustainable education models and impact investing to advise these nascent education social enterprises.

Irene hosted a kick-off reception in her home to welcome the cohort participants, Village Capital team, mentors, and key Chicago figures to the area.  The workshop began the following day and Irene enjoyed participating in a workshop session where she provided insight, constructive criticism and feedback on the enterprises’ business models. Her experience with Village Capital’s Ed Tech event left her feeling  overwhelmingly excited about the technological creativity that was presented to change the educational landscape, and cannot wait to see where each of the cohort members moves after the program.

Look for more information on the sessions via twitter by searching #VilCapEd2015

IDPRS Team Visits Ghana


February 12, 2015

The IDP Rising Schools team embarked on their first 2015 trip to Ghana to sit down and speak with school proprietors and tour the grounds at both schools from the initial pilot program as well as from the recent expansion.

The team has been traveling around both Accra and Kumasi with our partners from Sinapi Aba Trust, scouting schools for a potential launch of a mobile learning tool, checking in on some of the infrastructure improvement happening at the learning institutions, and even meeting with parents.

Keep an eye out for some pictures of their travels to be posted when they return.

enedicta Boateng-Apeadu, IDPRS Country Director (left), Jenna M. O'Brien, IDPRS Program Associate (middle), Anna Amegatcher, Analyst at Growth Mosaic Ltd. (right)

Benedicta Boateng-Apeadu, IDPRS Country Director (left), Jenna M. O’Brien, IDPRS Program Associate (middle), Anna Amegatcher, Analyst at Growth Mosaic Ltd. (right)

Brookings Institute Unveils Key Issues for the African Continent in 2015


January 29, 2015

The end of the year is always ushered in with a wave of excitement, with both individuals and organizations alike reviewing the best things to have happened, and eagerly anticipating those yet to come. Plans are made, goals are set, and all in one night the slate is cleaned and we begin again.

This process, however, isn’t limited to just individuals and organizations, we see it in new governmental agendas impacting whole countries, successes and failures of international and domestic policies, as well as predictions of what will be the biggest issues entire continents will face in the coming year.

Earlier this month, the Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institute released an in-depth report on what they believe to be the top priorities for Africa in 2015. The research conducted by the scholars involved in the initiative was extremely detailed, with topics ranging from the upcoming political elections, economic development throughout Africa, the post-2015 agenda, and even Ebola all made the cut. Reviewing the report, each area was thoroughly considered and does a fine job of explaining to the reader the reasoning behind its inclusion and what we can possibly expect to see in terms of impact on the continent and the specific countries.

Something interesting to note, however, is that education was not included as a top priority in this particular list. Perhaps because education is able to be intertwined into each of the topical areas, that its blatant inclusion was deemed unnecessary or over redundant, there is after all an education specific portion of the post-2015 agenda. However, in certain instances, for example the elections in Nigeria, it seemed pertinent to note that as it stands currently, Nigeria is one of the most dangerous places to obtain a free education; particularly for female students. Creating a clear connection to the vital importance the upcoming presidential elections will play in having a significant influence over both the quality and overall safety of these public institutions. Additionally, when one thinks about the history of post-election violence jeopardizing the welfare of Nigerian citizens and creating regional instability, it would seem that the inclusion of how to protect and monitor educational institutions should be specifically mentioned. While we understand education is a general understood norm as we review the top priorities for Africa, it should be promoted and highlighted within these components.

The article also lists aspects of the upcoming post-2015 agenda, another area where education is not, but could have been highlighted. There are three prongs to the agenda: job creation, infrastructure and governance, and peace/security/institutional reform. Particularly as they relate to Africa, we see the growth of the labor force, large numbers of youth, and increasing inequality. Education can be a catalyst for creating a more skilled labor force and is one of the major overhauls that require reform on a public level.

So it begs the question, “Why not include education as its own priority for 2015?”

If we are to see continued growth in Africa in 2015 and beyond, it is imperative to begin highlighting education within the aspects of the shifting political agendas. There are many facets of education that can aid a country in their development progress and even strengthen governmental platforms. Education is, and always will be, a top priority here at the IDP Foundation, as we understand its crucial impact on the human story of individuals, families, communities, nations and the entire globalized world we live in.

The Holiday Conversation Guide to the PRI




December 19, 2014

The Question: “So your job is to figure out how to give away money?!”

When you meet new people the “What do you do for work?” conversation is a regular accompaniment, and more often than not when the phrase ‘grantmaking’ comes up, someone in the group will ask something like, “So, your job is to figure out how to give away money?!”

While true, that is one component of grantmaking, it’s crucial to explain in these conversations that work at a foundation is much more complex than that. When explaining that we have at our disposal various creative tools we can use to deploy our funding, the conversation usually becomes the most interesting one of the night. As such, in light of the holiday season and accompanying parties in full swing, we felt it was imperative to provide our readers with the IDP Foundation Holiday Conversation Guide to explaining the greatness of one such tool – the Program Related Investment (PRI).

The Answer: “We use other creative tools like PRI’s to create the biggest social impact possible!”

Program Related Investments, or PRIs, are a type of lending instrument that is often used by foundations as an addition to the traditional grantmaking process. They have been around since the ‘70s and hold “incredible potential for the social enterprise arena” and are something to be excited about if you are interested in tackling tough social issues.[1] Inclusive in the annual 5% distribution requirement, PRIs must further “some aspect of the foundations charitable mission, cannot be used to support any political campaigns, and the production of income or the appreciation of property is not a significant purpose of the investment as it should be structured to produce lower financial returns.”[2] PRIs can take on many forms, but are usually defined as loans, loan guarantees, and equity investments that can range anywhere from $1,000 to several million dollars with below market interest rates.

The decision to pursue the path of a PRI in lieu of making a grant is that with PRI’s there is a potential to provide a return of philanthropic capital either through repayment or a return on equity. This is the great part about the PRI, because as the funds are repaid, they can then be redistributed to other high-impact organizations in the form of PRI’s or grants. Additionally, PRIs can allow foundations more involvement, increased accountability from the organization, and even potential ownership. Meanwhile, borrowers gain secure financing for projects that could be considered too risky by traditional commercial lenders, gain access to larger pools of funds at a lower return cost, and help foster a more bankable organization over time by helping to establish a credit history.[3]

Examples of PRI’s from the IDP Foundation

Despite heightened interest and clear value in the PRI model, many foundations are still slow to integrate them into their financial portfolio. Labeled too risky by some members of the financial community, some of the most well-known foundations have been engaging with the PRI model for over 40 years with no complaints. Thus, the IDP Foundation, Inc. (IDPF) was comfortable and excited about using a “new” lending instrument. IDPF made its first program related investment to Sinapi Aba Trust. This relationship originally started with a grant to help create and pilot the IDP Rising Schools Program (IDPRSP).

Following this grant was the Foundation’s first PRI to further the expansion the IDPRSP throughout Ghana. This was believed to be the best strategy possible to set up the partner for sustainable success and continued support without the reliance of aid.  A second PRI to Sinapi Aba Trust was made this year, but with higher expectations on the rate of return. Our experience with Sinapi Aba Trust highlights another unique benefit to the borrower of a PRI, which is the long term relationship that an organization can develop with a funder to ensure positive impact is made.

This year, IDPF also used a PRI, to support the “Maya Angelou: The People’s Poet” documentary.  This is the first documentary to be made about the life of the late Dr. Maya Angelou.  Maya Angelou has lived not one life, but half a dozen: from her hardscrabble roots in the Depression-era South to supper club chanteuse, performer in Porgy & Bess, coordinator for Martin Luther King’s SCLC, journalist in Egypt and Ghana, comrade of Malcolm X, eyewitness to the Watts riots and best-selling author of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” her life has uncannily intersected with some of the most profound moments in modern American history and culture. IDPF believes that Dr. Angelou’s contributions to the educational landscape are monumental and a PRI provides a perfect vehicle to offer support for this project.[4]

The film will air on PBS’ American Masters in 2016 and is being directed by Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack.  The filmmakers have been working on the project for three years and captured over 4 hours of interviews with Maya Angelou prior to her passing in May.  The film features an amazing array of Maya’s friends and colleagues including Oprah Winfrey, Secretary Hillary Clinton, Quincy Jones, Lou Gossett, Jr., Diahann Carrol, Common, Alfe Woodard, Valerie Simpson, Jules Feiffer and many more.

Ready to discuss PRI’s?

So what about you fellow readers? What kind of program related investments would you find exciting? Or if you have experience with them, what PRI’s are you proud of?

Hopefully this blog gets you thinking about the opportunities behind PRI’s. At the very least, you should now have a basic understanding of PRI’s and be armed with a couple of examples so you can answer those pesky holiday party questions! Even more importantly, as you engage in your discussions, don’t forget to reflect on how those PRI’s, grants, individual donations, and the people behind the scenes are all working together to build stronger and more sustainable solutions slowly breaking down the cycle of poverty to make the world a more equitable place.


Interested in learning more about impact investing? Check out our other blog post, “Putting our Corpus to Work: The IDP Foundation Embraces Impact Investing

Reflecting on the African Scholars Program


The month of December brings about many exciting times. For some it’s the start of the holiday season, gearing up for multiple gatherings with family and friends, and basking in the spirit of giving. Others look to December as a time to reflect on the accomplishments of another year gone too quickly and start to focus on what new beginnings will come in January.

December 4, 2014

As the end of 2014 rapidly approaches, we at the IDP Foundation, Inc. are reflecting on a five-year grant to the Field Museum that comes to a close this December. This $500,000 grant to the African Training Fund assisted the Field Museum in executing the African Scholars Program for undergraduate and graduate science students. Started in 2009 to promote the development of highly trained African scientists, these special scholarships were only made available to talented students who could not otherwise afford to attend university.

As a result of our grant, the Museum established partners with Makere University (Uganda), the University of Antananarivo (Madagascar), the University of Dar-es-Salaam (Tanzania) and other prominent African Universities to offer up to ten scholarships every year, for five years, to those who were studying biology, anthropology, botany, geology, biochemistry, molecular biology or other fields related to the natural sciences. The selected students were paired with Field Museum scientists who acted as informal advisors and mentors.  When the opportunity presented itself, the students were also able to receive special training from Field Museum scientists during both fieldwork sessions and regional workshops.

With the grant coming to a close, we are proud to have been instrumental in impacting over 46 students and scientists directly through funding their important research, thereby encouraging the development of more African intellectuals in country.

Notable Standouts of the Program:


  • Paul Kirika, who is in the final stages of becoming the first PhD mycologist in Kenya and in all of East Africa, worked with Field Museum Curator Thorsten Lumbosch on lichens of the world; this resulted in a special exhibit put on by the Field Museum this year.




  • Despite violent civil war and unrest, Hassan Babiker in South Sudan was able to successfully complete his research on small mammal diversity, abundance, species richness, and habit in three national parks which will be the basic guiding principles in the country’s long-term conservation management plan.



Dr. Paul Webala

  • Field Museum’s Bruce Patterson and Kenyan scientist Dr. Paul Webala collected data on over 104 species of bats in the protected areas of Kenya, providing a large majority of information to be used in producing a definitive guide to the many types of bats found in the area. Much of their work can be seen in the African Bats exhibit going on now at the Field Museum, and they are working to make a few more Brain Scoop videos with Emily Graslie on the research to inspire others to be passionate about science.


We could not be more pleased with the research that has been funded by our grant in partnership with the Field Museum, and fully believe these contributions to scientific exploration will create an extended community of people interested in sustainable solutions for various issues in Africa.

What happens when you mix sustainable innovation with limited access to education?

Yaa Baah BL2

When Eric Ansah Yirenki of Good News International School enrolled in the IDPRS Program, he was trying to figure out how he could increase the number of students able to obtain an education, while also increasing income to ensure teachers were paid on time and in full.

November 26, 2014

The 2008 Education Act (Act 778) made provisions for free and compulsory basic education as well as private participation in the provision of education at all levels. As a result we saw an increase in the rise in the number of low-cost private schools across Ghana in order to support the rapid influx of students attending school and ensure full implementation of the policy. The Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy at the time, suggested that reaching children in rural deprived areas will require more innovative approaches that take into account the harsh environments by which these families live, as the government’s reach was very limited in these areas.

The IDP Rising Schools Program (IDPRS) works with a number of proprietors who enroll into our program to gain access to capital in a sustainable way so they can best serve rural and deprived districts. The goal of our training is not only to ensure stability of these low-cost private schools through proper management, but also to equip proprietors with skills to overcome additional adversity when faced with difficult school management decisions.  What works for one school may not work for the other,  so our microfinance partner Sinapi Aba Trust enables school owners to best decide, based on their community structure, what kind of school collection fees they should be applying to their process as well as how to best generate additional income.

When Eric Ansah Yirenki of Good News International School enrolled in the IDPRS Program, he was trying to figure out how he could increase the number of students able to obtain an education, while also increasing income to ensure teachers were paid on time and in full. Located in the deprived district of Asawinso Wiawso, Eric decided it would be best if he made the tuition free for the nursery school in order to increase enrollment, and raise canteen fees to 1 cedi a day. Parents in his community were more likely to pay for a nutritional meal for their child than they were to pay their term fees on time. By doing this, he increased his student population from 150 to 400 students and has been able to maintain financial stability through the generation of a more reliable financial stream. Eric is now able to pay his teachers’ salaries on time and feels confident knowing that Good News International School can sustainably educate hundreds of students for years to come. Eric is now looking at ways to provide additional training to his teachers and staff in order to increase the quality of education the children in his school receive.

Will a teacher crisis prevent accomplishment of the MDGs and EFA?

Sunyani_Promise Excellence School_teacher helping student at chalkboard

The education sector is experiencing a teacher crisis that if left unaddressed could prevent some United Nations member states from meeting the universal primary education and quality goals put forth.

November 21, 2014

In 2000, following the Millennium Summit of the United Nations, 189 governments agreed on eight international development aims to be completed by 2015, they are commonly referred to as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Around the same time the MDGs were created, the Education for All (EFA) initiative found that reaching their goals was absolutely critical in the attainment of all eight MDGs due to the direct impact education can have on children and their families.

2015 is quickly approaching and we are running out of time on our global quest to achieve universal primary education (UPE), improving all aspects of educational quality and learning outcomes, expanding early childhood education and care, ensuring all children have access to free and compulsory primary education, and see to it that gender disparities are eliminated.  That is not to say vast improvements have not been made, but there is still much work to be done.

Within the educational landscape the student is often the primary focus, but without teachers the learning outcomes and quality improvements will not grow. Teachers are an integral part of the large puzzle that intertwines the MDGs and EFA goals, and according to a recent UNESCO report published last month, the education sector is experiencing a teacher crisis that if left unaddressed could prevent some United Nations member states from meeting the universal primary education and quality goals put forth. Per the data gathered, countries will need to recruit a total of 4 million teachers to achieve universal primary education by 2015; the region facing the greatest challenges by a large margin is sub-Saharan Africa, which accounts for more than one-half (63%) of the additional teachers needed to achieve UPE by 2015 or two-thirds (67%) by 2030.[1] Additionally, in 30 of the 91 countries with data, less than 75% of primary school teachers were trained according to national standards, posing a huge problem to the education these children are receiving[2].

The IDP Rising Schools Program (IDPRS), and the IDP Foundation overall, are very invested in the economic and educational development of sub-Saharan Africa. In Ghana, where the IDPRS Program was incubated and is actively expanding, basic and secondary education levels currently face a 60,000 teacher deficit after a mass layoff of untrained teachers[3]. This was all prompted by the Ghana Education Service (GES) and Ministry of Education (MOE) definition of a professional teacher as one who received training in a College of Education and maybe a University of Education, even when situations on the ground call for a second look at such limited definitions[4].

Putting our Corpus to Work – The IDP Foundation Embraces Impact Investing


November 6, 2014

At the IDP Foundation, we are always looking for ways to maximize our impact. We work hard to find highly effective, but underfunded programs that address clear needs in education and healthcare – and if we can’t find the right program…well, we build it ourselves! This is the approach we took when we created the IDP Rising Schools Program several years ago.

Over the last few years, we have been expanding that sense of innovation beyond our grant-making portfolio and into the investment strategy of our corpus, or the “other 95%” of assets that we are not obligated to give away in any one year. Typically, foundations invest their corpus with an eye solely toward risk-adjusted returns, trying to grow the corpus so that there is more money to give away next year. While that may seem like a reasonable goal, we wanted to maximize the impact of these assets and dig a little deeper. Is it possible to create as much change with investments as it is with money we give away?

Pursuing this question has led us to become increasingly engaged in impact investing. Impact investments are investments made into companies, organizations, and funds with the intention to generate social and environmental impact alongside a financial return”.[1] With the help of our financial advisors, we are excited to now include impact investing as another way to put philanthropic dollars to work to generate even more positive change. We are proud that 80% of the investments of the corpus of the Foundation are mission aligned. Our diversified portfolio includes pure impact investments and positive and negative screened investments to ensure that we are holistically fulfilling the mission of the IDP Foundation to use philanthropy as a means to support sustainable investment in educational initiatives.  However, given that the impact investing space is still developing in terms of product offerings in the education sector, our investments also target environmental stewardship, human capital management, and sustainable community impact. The IDP Foundation is committed to finding new and innovative approaches to break the cycle of poverty, and we believe that charitable organizations have an obligation to use all of their resources, not just their grant dollars, towards achieving their missions. We are excited to combine smart philanthropy with mission aligned impact investing that will significantly amplify our impact.